The Battlefield Band
The Glasgow-based Battlefield Band is one of Scotland's foremost folk-revival bands. Their older albums are quite traditional in style and content, but their later ones are tinged with pop. Along the way, they were among the first bands to incorporate the sounds of electric keyboards and the great Highland bagpipe into a folk-pop setting. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
The younger brother of influential accordion player Seamus Begley, Brendan Begley is as much a master of traditional Irish accordion playing. Begley showcased his talents on the albums, "Seana Choirce", released in 1987 and "We Won't Go Home `Til Morning", released in 1997, performing traditional Irish dance tunes solo and with accompaniment by piper Liam O'Flynn, pianist Brid Cranitch or guitarists Stephen Cooney and Frankie Lane. Begley, who has guested on albums by the Chieftains and the Boys Of The Lough, hosts a traditional music program on Irish-language television. Together with flute player Paul McGrattan, fiddler Paul O'Shaughnessy and bouzouki player Noel O'Grady, Begley is a member of Beginish, an Irish superband formed in 1996. In a review of a performance by Beginish, "The Belfast Telegram" wrote, "The peerless singing of Brendan Begley literally breathed new life into that well worn Donegal standard, `The Rose Of Arranmore'. Irish music doesn't get much better than this". ~ Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
Although best known as the harpist with the Chieftains, Derek Bell's career includes a raft of musical achievements and credits extending into the worlds of both classical and folk music -- and he didn't begin playing the harp until he was in his 30s. A major figure in music education as well as music performance, Bell is perhaps the leading Irish harpist in the world, and has done more to elevate the instrument to a level of international respectability before a wider audience than any other musician today.
Born George Derek
Fleetwood Bell in Belfast in 1935, Bell was the son of a traditional
Irish fiddler, from whom he received his earliest musical training. His
own musical inclinations, beginning at age nine, were originally
directed in formal classical direction. As a boy, he considered the harp
to be "a reward for goodness to be played in heaven." He took
up the piano and learned the xylophone, and became a highly proficient
reed player, excelling on the oboe and cor anglais. Bell received a
degree with honors from the Royal College of Music in London in 1957,
and a Bachelor of Music degree from Trinity College in Dublin two years
His first musical
post was behind the scenes, as manager of the City of Belfast Symphony
Orchestra in 1957. He began his performing career on the oboe and the
English horn (cor anglais), with which he worked as a soloist with
various ensembles thru the mid-'60s. Bell took up the harp in his early
30s with the encouragement of Alan
Tongue, the musician/composer/arranger who later introduced him to the
Chieftains. He took his first lessons from Sheila Larchet-Cuthbert
in Dublin, on an instrument he borrowed from the Irish Arts Council, and
later studied with Gwendolyn Mason in London. During this time, he also
served as chorus repetiteur and deputy chorus master of the Northern
Ireland Radio and TV Orchestra, under his former teacher David
Curry (1899-1971), a post he held from 1965 until 1976. In 1970, he
joined the faculty of the Belfast Academy of Music and Dramatic Art as a
Professor of Harp and Irish Harp. In 1975, Bell also began a career as a
harp soloist, touring internationally.
But it was in 1972
that Bell took on the most visible musical activity of his career, when
he joined the line-up of the Irish folk group the
Chieftains, just in time for the recording of their album Chieftains
arrival -- which coincided with the decision by the Chieftains to become
a full-time occupation after years of semi-professional activity -- and
his presence on harp, oboe, and dulcimer greatly extended the range of
the group, which had acquired a large following in England and, during
the mid-'70s, became an international phenomenon. Their next album, Chieftains
5, their first released by Island Records in England and America,
received more exposure than any of their previous work, aided by the
group's appearance on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's Barry
Lyndon that same year, which earned them heavily radio play. A tour
of the United States allowed the Chieftains to establish themselves on a
new continent with hundreds of thousands of new fans.
Partly thanks to his
association with the Chieftains, Bell's solo albums, which date from the
1970s onward, have been readily available in America, not only at shops
catering to Irish and general Celtic interests but better general
interest record stores as well. With the arrival of the compact disc,
his older albums have been picked up for license in America by the
ethnic specialty label Shanachie Records.
Bell's prominence was
such that he became the focus and subject of several television shows in
England, including Derek Bell's Concert Party for the BBC, in which he
was featured playing ten instruments. His interest in Irish folk music
has led to his writing numerous arrangements of traditional Irish
folksongs for different size ensembles. He has also composed many
classical works, and arranged others derived from various ethnic
sources, including Hungarian and Peruvian dances; the Tocatta Burlesca
(a recording of which, with Bell playing eight instruments, has been
made), two symphonies, and suite entitled The Violet Flame, many works
for solo harp and orchestra.
His work with the
Irish harp, in repertory ranging across many centuries, has helped
elevate it from near-extinction to one of the most beloved of folk
instruments. Along with his work with the Chieftains, Bell has continued
in his academic work, teaching and playing into the 1990s. Bruce Eder,
A pure vocal tone and an energetic, pop-minded delivery has made Frances Black one of Ireland's top vocalists. In 1995 and 1997, Black was named by the Irish Record Industry Awards (IRMA) as Ireland's Best Female Artist. She also received the Most Popular Artist award at the National Awards ceremony.
A former member of
Arcady and The Black Family, in 1993 Black made her solo debut with two
tracks on the million-selling, multi-artist compilation Woman's Heart.
An album-related tour with Maura O'Connell, Dolores Keane, Sharon
Shannon, Sinead Lohan and her sister, Mary Black, broke all of Ireland's
box office records. While Black's debut solo album, Talk to Me (released
in 1994), sold over 100, 000 copies and spent eight weeks at the top of
Ireland's music charts, her releases The Sky Road (1995), The Smile on
Your Face (1996) and Don't Get Me Wrong (1998) further established her
as an internationally known performer. Black has proven as effective
interpreting the songs of American singer/songwriters as she is with
Irish music. Talk to Me featured four songs by Nanci Griffith ("On
Grafton Street," "Talk to Me While I'm Listening, "
"Always Will" and "Time of Inconvenience." Among
Black's most successful singles are re-recordings of Acker Bilk's
"Stranger on the Shore" in October 1996 and the Yvonne
Elliman-popularized tune "Love Me, Please" in August 1997.
Black made her
professional debut in 1986 with The Black Family, a group that also
featured her three brothers (Michael, Shay and Martin) and her sister
(Mary). In addition to singing on the group's two albums (The Black
Family in 1986 and Time for Touching Home in 1988) -- Black sang on her
brothers' album, What a Time. Shortly after recording Time for Touching
Home, Black joined Irish trad-folk band Arcady, which also featured
accordion players Shannon and Jackie Daly and bouzouki player Johnny
Moynihan. Black remained with the band until 1994, when she formed a duo
with Irish singer/songwriter Kieran Goss. In 1994, Black performed a
benefit concert and recorded an EP, Fear Is the Enemy of Love and
Children, for the Aoibhneas Women's Refuge that featured her children,
Eoghan and Aoife, singing background vocals. ~ Craig Harris, All-Music
Mary Black is a performer equally at home singing traditional Irish folk tunes and contemporary music including blues, rock, jazz, country and soul. She was born into a musical family the daughter of a fiddler and a singer. She started out professionally with her brother and sister in Dublin nightclubs and then performed with General Humbert, a folk group until 1982 when she released her eponymous solo debut. The album made it to the Top Five on the Irish album charts and won the Irish Independent Arts Award for Music. At the invitation of Alec Finn, Black joined the band De Dannan. A week later, she took part in the recording of Song of Ireland with them. She remained with De Dannan for three years. In 1984, Black helped produce and sang back-up on the Black's Family Favourites album. She was still performing with De Dannan when she launched her solo career with the Declan Sinnott-produced largely pop album Without the Fanfare. Many of the tracks went gold and for both 1987 and 1988 she was named Best Female Artist in the Irish Rock Music Awards Poll. Black's music crossed the Atlantic in 1990 when her 1989 album No Frontiers, debuted in the U.S. and climbed to the Top 20 of the New Adult Contemporary charts. It was also a top seller in Ireland. That year Black began a successful concert tour of Japan. Though her music is firmly based in Irish tradition, Black is interested in performing all kinds of music. Her first influences included Sandy Denny and the Fairport Convention. Other influences include Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt. Sandra Brennan, All-Music Guide
aka. Barry Moore
Before making his
American debut, Barry
Moore recorded three albums in Ireland. Perhaps because his brother
is the revered Irish singer Christy
Moore, he changed his name to Luka
Bloom -- Luka
is taken from Suzanne
Vega's song, Bloom
Joyce's Ulysses. With his literate, melodic original songs and
impassioned live performances, Bloom earned a devoted following in the
New York area, which led to his record contract with Reprise. While he
can occasionally suffer from over-worked lyrics and a cloying cuteness,
Bloom is one of the best post-punk folk performers and songwriters.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide
The Bothy Band
In the three years the Bothy Band were together, they emerged as one of the exciting bands in Celtic history. Although much of their repertoire was rooted in the traditional music of Ireland, their enthusiasm and musical virtuosity set off ripples that continue to be felt.
The genesis of the Bothy Band was sparked, in 1975, when bouzouki player Donal Lunny left Planxty to form his own record company, Mulligan. One of his first projects brought him together with uillean piper Paddy Keenan, flute and whistle player Matt Molloy, fiddler Paddy Glackin and accordion player Tony MacMahon. The group was soon joined by siblings Micheal O'Domhnaill on acoustic guitar and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, on clavinet and vocals. Hailing from a musical family, with their aunt having contributed 286 songs to the Dublin University folklore collection, the two had previously performed, along with their sister Mairead, in the traditional Irish group Skara Brae. Initially calling themselves Seachtar, which translates as "seven," the group reformed as the Bothy Band after MacMahon left to become a BBC producer. The band's debut came on February 2, 1975 when they performed at Trinity College in Dublin.
Despite their great legacy, the Bothy Band only recorded three studio albums -- The Bothy Band, Old Hag You Have Killed Me and Out of the Wind Into the Sun. A live album, After Hours, released in 1979, was recorded at the Palace Des Arts in Paris. In 1995, a second live album, Live In Concert, was released that included tracks recorded in London by the BBC at the Pares Theater in July 1976 and the Kilburn National Theater in July 1978.
The Bothy Band featured a variety of fiddlers during their three-year tenure. Original fiddler Glackin was replaced by Donegal-style fiddler Tommy Peoples on the band's debut album and by heavily ornamented fiddler Kevin Burke on the second release.
With the breakup of the Bothy Band in 1979, the band's musicians continued to play influential musical roles. Donal Lunny returned for a while to Planxty and then helped to form the Celtic rock band Moving Hearts. He's continued to work as a record producer and has occasionally collaborated with former Silly Wizards vocalist Andy Stewart. Moving to the United States, Triona Ni Domhnaill formed the short-lived band Touchstone and, later, joined with her brother to form both Relativity and Nightnoise. Matt Molloy and Kevin Burke continue to work together in Patrick Street.
The Boys of the Lough
A fun-loving approach to Celtic music has made the Boys of the Lough one of folk music's most influential groups. In the three decades since they were formed, the Ireland-based band has been instrumental in the evolution of traditional Irish music.
The Boys of the Lough
initially came together in 1967 as a trio featuring Cathal
McConnell (who had won the all-Ireland championship in flute and tin
whistle in 1962), Tommy
Gunn, and Robin
Morton. When Gunn left two years later, McConnell and Morton
recorded their first album, An Irish Jubilee, as a duo. After meeting
Shetland fiddler Aly
Bain and singer/guitarist Mike Whelan at the Folkirk Folk Festival
in 1971, the two duos agreed to pool their resources.
The group continued
to experience numerous personnel changes. In 1972, Whelan was replaced
by guitarist and vocalist Dick
Gaughan, who was replaced a year later by Northumbrian cittern,
banjo and mandolin player Dave
Richardson. Among the six albums recorded by this lineup were two
live albums -- Live at Passim's, recorded at the Cambridge,
Massachusetts coffeehouse, and Wish You Were Here, recorded while
touring the Scottish Highlands.
In 1979, original
Morton left the band and was replaced by Richardson's brother, Tish,
on guitar. Tish Richardson remained with the group until 1983, when he
died in an auto accident, and was replaced by British guitarist Chris
Newman. Uilleann pipes, tin whistle and mouth-organ player Christy
O'Leary, who had previously played with De Dannan, was added at the
same time. In October 1997, Newman and O'Leary were replaced by
accordion player Brendan
Begley and guitar, mandocello and piano player Garry
O'Briain. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
Talented and prolific singer Paul Brady has enjoyed a career that has seen him pass through several major bands and on to a successful solo phase. He began performing as a hotel piano player in Donegal, Ireland at the age of sixteen and graduated to being guitarist, during the 1960s, in two rhythm and blues bands: Rockhouse and the Cult. There followed a stint with the Johnstons as a guitarist and singer that ended in 1974, and a shorter one with Planxty that saw Brady touring extensively but recording no albums. In 1976, Brady recorded an album with Andy Irvine that he now regards as his best. Welcome Here Kind Stranger, released in 1978 was the summation of his interest in Irish music and was followed in 1981 by the appropriately named Hard Station, Brady's engagement with commercial rock. Since that time, Brady has recorded a slew of albums and collaborated with Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson. ~ Leon Jackson, All-Music Guide
For many years, Maire Brennan was the lead singer of the Celtic new age group Clannad. In 1992, she released her first solo album, Maire, on Atlantic Records. Three years later, she released Misty Eyed Adventures on BGM. For 1998's Perfect Time, she switched labels and signed with Word/Epic. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide
One of Ireland's best-known accordion players, Burke comes out of the great Galway squeezebox tradition. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
Kevin Burke is a master of the highly ornamental Sligo style of Irish fiddling. A former member of the Bothy Band, Patrick Street and a duo he shared with Irish guitarist Micheal O'Domhnaill, Burke has also performed as a soloist and with his own band, Open House.
A native of London, England, Burke inherited his love of Irish music from his parents who had emigrated from Sligo County, Ireland. His music career began shortly after moving to Ireland in 1974, when he teamed up with singer-songwriter Christy Moore. who had just left the influential Irish trad-rock band Planxty. Replacing Tommy Peoples in the Bothy Band in 1976, he remained with the group until 1979 and was featured on three of their albums -- Old Hag You Have Killed Me, After Hours (Live in Paris) and Out of the Wind, Into the Sun.
When the Bothy Band separated, Burke emigrated to Portland, Oregon. In addition to making a guest appearance on Arlo Guthrie's album, Washington County, he joined the Bothy Band's guitarist Michael O'Domhnaill for several tours and two albums -- Promenade and Portland -- as a duo. An early-1980s tour, "Legends of Irish Music," brought Burke together with influential Irish musicians Andy Irvine (vocals, bouzouki, mandolin and harmonica) and Jackie Daly (accordion). Following the tour, they continued to perform together as Patrick Street.
Recording a solo album, Open House, in 1992, Burke assembled the musicians -- Mark Graham (harmonica, clarinet, vocals), Paul Kotopish (guitar, mandolin, cittern, bass) and Sandy Silva (percussion) -- who became his current band.
In 1992 and 1997,
Burke toured and recorded with Scottish fiddler Johnny
Cunningham and Breton fiddler Christian
Lemaitre as the "Celtic Fiddle Festival." Burke has also
recorded three instruction tapes for Homespun Tapes and Videos -- Music
Instruction -- Fiddle, Twenty Irish Fiddle Tunes and Learn to Play Irish
Fiddle. In Concert, his first solo recording in 15 years, followed in
1999. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide
Buttons & Bows
This group is made up of Jackie Daly, along with brothers Seamus and Manus McGuire on fiddles. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide
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